University Tower Apartments, UTA, now houses a new living learning community with a social justice theme named after the civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.
This year the 8th floor of UTA houses students who are interested in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) issues as well as other social justice programs, “We are a social justice themed housing that provides a safe, affirming environment for students of all identities,” said Molly Eames, a senior at the University of Louisville, who is the resident assistant of the community.
The floor is named after Bayard Rustin, a famous civil rights activist who is one of the organizers of the march on Washington, and also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and other prominent civil rights activists. Rustin, himself, was a gay man who faced many challenges. However Brian Buford, the director of the LGBT office, hopes Rustin’s role in social justice issues will inspire students, “he is, in my mind, the embodiment of everything we hope students will learn about social justice, and he’s the inspiration that we will build things on,” Buford said.
While the program is mainly concerned on LGBT issues, it is open to all other students who have interest in all social justice issues, “We love allies and it’s not just queer-focused at all, we talk about myriad issues in the social justice realm, we have something to offer everyone,” said Eames.
Jana Hockersmith, a freshman, who graduated from Eastern High School is among the residents who live at the Rustin community. She also believes that this will help her transition to college, “I think this community will really help me become more active on campus and make my transition from high school to college much easier.”
Though the Rustin community has been operating now for only two weeks, Hockersmith already enjoys the program, “I have made a lot of friends quickly, and our resident assistant has been nothing, but supportive, and she is really a big part of what makes living here so great,” she said.
Although this is the first year the social justice themed housing is started, Jacob Jones, a sophomore majoring in Justice Administration, hoped that this community was there during his freshman year, “I was so terrified of being placed with a random roommate when applying for housing, but knowing that my potential roommate had similar interests as I do and a fair-minded sense of being would have made me feel a lot more comfortable when making the transition,” Jones said.
While there’s another living learning community for those interested in Leadership at Center Hall, programs like these boost students’ academic performance, “we know that participation in a community like this one has been linked to academic success, retention and an overall sense of connection to campus life,” Buford said.
The program is created through a collaboration between the office of LGBT and the University of Louisville Housing and Residence Life, “My office will lead the programmatic aspects of the community, and the residence life folks will handle all the other important aspects of housing,” Buford said.
Among the major programs the group is looking forward to will be held on October 4th, during Pride Week celebrations. They have invited Rustin’s surviving partner Walter Naegle and national activist Mandy Carter to lead a celebration.
Photo: Nathan Douglas/The Louisville Cardinal